Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | June 25, 2016

Artifact of the Week. Foot stool made by furniture and undertaking man M.A. McDonald of Cornwall, Ontario.


McDonald_Stool19th century furniture makers would often service a person’s needs from cradle to grave as the rubber stamp on the bottom of this foot stool from M.A. McDonald Co., Furniture and Undertaking from Cornwall suggests.

The cast iron and wooden stool dates circa 1906.  The base diametre is 26.5 cm.

The stool was purchased at an auction in Osnabruck Centre by the Museum in 2003, and is on display.

scan0119 An 1894 invoice for M.A. McDonald & Co. donated to the museum in 1992.


Cornwall possesses the distinction of having, in the Victoria Furniture Warerooms, the largest emporium in Canada under one roof for sale of furniture and household goods.  The building devoted to the business of the enterprising firm of M.A. McDonald & Co., was built by John Towle as a roller skating rink, and is well lighted, spacious and convenient.  In size it is 60 x 176 feet, with a carpet and curtain room 40 x 62 feet, and commodious offices in front.  Large plate-glass windows embellish the imposing front, through which can be seen handsome furniture, musical instruments, oil paintings etc.


An 1898 statement donated to the museum in 1992.


The manufacturing of furniture is today a fine art.  In no industrial line perhaps, have the influence of modern culture and art education been more strongly felt and keenly appreciated than in the furnishing and decoration of our homes.  When one contrasts the hastily made articles that did duty in the average household a few years ago with artistic creations  of the factories of today, one cannot but be struck with the tremendous  advance that has been made along these lines.  A house should be cosy and comfortable, the articles one uses so constantly should be strong and substantial, and at the same time of artistic design.  M.A. McDonald & Co. do not manufacture furniture, but patronize the leading makers of Canada, who are acknowledged to be without a peer in this particular line.McDonald_newsad_McDonald1


As one walks through the spacious building one cannot but be struck with the extent and variety of the stock.  Whether one dwells in a cabin or a palatial modern residence he has no difficulty in finding the furniture to suit.  Elegant bedroom and parlour suites in mahogany, oak, walnut, and in some more expensive woods, upholstered in the choicest tapestry, silk, and other modern materials, tell of ease and sweet repose, while the solid dining-tables and chairs, the chaste and elegant sideboards betoken comfort and convenience.  For purses less plethoric the essentials for comfortable housekeeping can be found in endless profusion – indeed there is no taste that cannot be gratified.


The Victoria Furniture Warerooms, circa 1900.

THE FREEHOLDER  continues:

In musical instruments there is almost an unlimited choice, the goods of Bell Piano & Organ Co., Evans Bros., Whaley, Royce & Co., of To., the Thomas Piano and Organ Co. of Woodstock…The increase in the wealth of the community has created a large demand for these articles of luxury, and the volume of business done by the firm is simply astonishing, a piano a day being frequently sent out.

Undertaking is one of the delicate and sad duties which devolve upon some one in every community, and the man who can perform this task to the satisfaction of his patrons is one who must thoroughly understand his business and possess delicacy and sympathy to a large degree.  Mr. McDonald is a man who thoroughly understands his business, having made this branch a study for many years…

Alex McDonald, the senior partner, is one of Cornwall’s most esteemed citizens.  He is a native of Cornwall, and got his first lessons in business from his uncles, Alex and David McCracken.  Some 20 years ago he embarked in the furniture business in partnership with Richard Shaver buying out James Kilgour…This partnership was of short duration, Mr. McDonald cutting loose for himself and starting in the store on lower Pitt St…J.M. McDonald was afterwards his partner for a few years, and in 1888 they bought the roller rink from Mr. Towle and converted it into a huge furniture store.  J.M. McDonald retired soon after the change of base, since which time Mr. McDonald has been sole proprietor…Though devoted to business Mr. McDonald is an enthusiastic patron of field sports, player of the Cornwall Lacrosse Club in early times, and has for several years guided its fortunes as president.  His skill with the rifle has won him many prizes before the target.  A keen curler, her was rarely missed from the rink until his duties as manager of the Victoria Skating Rink made pressing demands upon his time.

This is a example of the material held in the archives at the Cornwall Community Museum regarding Cornwall’s history.

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